KAMPUNG Jenjarom villagers thought the issue of lead pollution had been put to rest when the Selangor government ordered a factory making batteries to cease operations last year.
They were mistaken.
The factory, which was responsible for lead waste contamination in the area, may be back in business again but producing solar batteries instead.
Locals have learnt that the factory making lead batteries has been sold to a new company that plans to reopen the facility next year.
A meeting to discuss the the factory’s reopening took place on Dec 8 between the company and representatives from the Kuala Langat Municipal Council (MPKL), Kampung Jenjarom, Kampung Sungai Rambai, Pulau Carey and the International Trade and Industry Ministry.
It is an MPKL requirement imposed on the factory owner to hold public engagement session.
Local resident Mohd Nazri Afrizal, who was speaking on behalf of the villagers, said an invitation was sent to the village head but he had stepped down on Dec 1.
“Locals decided that four people from our village should attend the meeting, ” he said, adding that he was one of those chosen to represent the community.
However, villagers’ hope of giving their input on the matter was short-lived when they were refused entry into the meeting that was taking place in the factory.
“We explained that we were representing our former village head but were told that representatives from Kampung Jenjarom were already at the meeting.
“We do not know who authorised them to represent our village, ” said Nazri, adding that the heads of Kampung Sungai Rambai and Pulau Carey, both of which are nearby Kampung Jenjarom, had attended the meeting.
A copy of a document distributed during the meeting, which StarMetro looked at, stated that the factory was planning to gather and assemble components to make batteries before packaging the finished products.
Nazri said this was shocking as the area was classified as a medium industry zone and was therefore off-limits to any type of venture involving batteries.
In the Kuala Langat Local Plan 2030, battery manufacturing is classified as heavy industry and must be situated at least 500m away from residential settlements.
The factory in question, however, is within walking distance to a few houses in the area.
It is also roughly 350m away from Tadika Hidayatul Ummi and 500m from SMK Jenjarom.
The factory gained media attention last year after Selangor environment, green technology, science, technology and innovation and consumer affairs committee chairman Hee Loy Sian was reported ordering it to cease operations and relocate to a heavy industrial zone.
This had been decided by the Selangor Economic Action Council on Oct 3,2019, following investigations by the Department of Environment, Selangor Water Management Authority as well as Drainage and Irrigation Department found the factory responsible for lead pollution in the area.
Nazri said villagers would send a letter and petition to MPKL and Hee to object to the factory resuming operations.
The petition has so far collected 25 signatures, including from the chairmen of Masjid Jenjarom and five surau, Taman Amanah and Taman Setia residents’ representatives and presidents of the Parent-Teacher Associations for SMK Jenjarom and SK Jenjarom.
“If this factory reopens, it will set a dangerous precedent that heavy industry factories are permitted here. The chemical by-products from their activities will threaten our health, once again, ” said Nazri.
“We are not against development but it must not pose any risk to the environment and our lives, ” he added.
Meanwhile, Persatuan Tindakan Alam Sekitar Kuala Langat (PTASKL) chairman Tan Ching Heng raised concerns over the storage and disposal of chemicals involved in the factory’s production.
“It is worrying because there is a possibility of the industrial waste discharged from the factory affecting locals, ” he said, adding that the possibility of toxic leakage was high.
The factory’s proximity to schools in the area was a matter to be concerned with, PTASKL secretary Pua Lay Peng said.
“Some 2,500 schoolchildren are at risk from the chemical processes at the factory. This can have long-term health effects on their physical development, ” she said.Authorities’ feedback
Sijangkang assemblyman Datuk Dr Ahmad Yunus Hairi, when contacted, said he had forwarded the matter to International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali’s political secretary to get more details.
“This is because I was told that the factory is considered medium industry.
“I want to find out more about the nature of the activity that is to be carried out at the factory.
“If there is a risk for pollution, I will lodge a complaint.
“But I will have no qualms if it complies with proper regulations, ” he said.
Azmin’s aide Muhammad Hilman Idham when contacted, confirmed that he had received the query from Ahmad Yunus.
“We are in the process of sharing relevant information to ensure that all procedures are followed by the factory in ensuring the safety and health of locals.
“However, it is MPKL that has to give its approval for the factory to operate, ” said Hilman, who is also Gombak Setia assemblyman.
MPKL president Datuk Amirul Azizan Abd Rahim, when contacted, said the council had yet to receive any application for the factory to reopen.
He also said that a new planning approval was not needed as the building had already obtained the Certificate of Completion and Compliance.
“An application for a new planning approval is needed if modifications are to be made to the existing building, ” he added.
He confirmed that the area was classified as a medium industrial zone.
Meanwhile, a letter from MPKL dated Nov 18 to the factory owner, stated that the council had acknowledged a proposal from the factory owner to reopen the factory.
The letter, signed by Amirul, outlined several terms that the owner must fulfil before the factory could reopen.
Among the conditions listed is for an engagement session involving the media and DOE with the locals must be held.
A site visit with MPKL must also be conducted to ascertain that the factory complies with the proper standards and regulations.
“MPKL is concerned that the pollution issue will recur as the proposed activity is almost identical to the one conducted before this, ” the letter said.
StarMetro reached out to Hee for comment but did not get a response as at press time.
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